The Great Debate; What is the ROI (Return on Investment) on your Social Media Marketing. Perhaps a better question is this; Are your Social Media Marketing efforts performing. I am not so convinced that businesses know as much about what piece and part of their traditional marketing approach works well, let alone what part of Social Media works. But, maybe, as with lots of things it isn't all that complicated either, tell me what you think about this;

Collateral Material
Our small business, like most, require certain types of marketing material that we term as collateral material. We were running low at some properties (we have a boutique apartment property management business) on our marketing materials that we hand out to prospects when they come in looking for an apartment. It was time for some fresh changes, and we really wanted to introduce photos of real people in our models to invoke the prospects emotions, and add some fun and sense of community, as opposed to just highlighting the various apartment features.  We hired a third party firm to photograph live models, in one of our furnished apartments, with the intent on shooting scenes of folks gathering about and enjoying themselves.  The photo shoot turned out really well and cost us $3,500. We had the new collateral material made for that property and it looked pretty cool. Just having people in the photos makes a significant difference, we were pretty happy.

Tap Your Customer
 I am not afraid to experiment with things, and neither should you be. The more I experiment with Social Media Marketing, the more ways we are coming up with to involve our customers, in our case our residents and to Engage their Emotions. There are lots of Social Media Carpetbaggers out there, beware. Try things yourself, get comfortable with navigating around.  Anyone who proclaims to be a Social Media Expert likely isn't, we are all experimenting, but I digress.

The live models/people in the pictures looked great, but $3,500 for one property is more than we can afford or want to spend. Time to get creative, so I posted on the various sites we have active and regular conversation with our residents such as facebook, MySpace and Twitter, the following; "Urbane Residents, Need a little jingle, let us photo your furnished apartment and receive $500 big ones, let us photo your apartment with YOU in it and we give you a month of Rent Free!"

Compound Social Media ROI
So here is what unfolded, we had four residents sign up; all four wanted to be in the photos and brought in their friends. It was a complete hoot and everyone had a blast. We hired another one of our residents who is a very good professional photographer. He did the shoots for hardly a song and he captured some outstanding photos, not with just people, but with actual residents, who wanted to participate, wanted to be part of our promotional material and wanted to be Urbane Evangelists. We distributed the pictures to the participating residents and their friends.

Compound Returns
Here is the math; we were able to shoot four properties for a little less than $3,200 of net cost. So, that is pretty easy to see the increased return, we got four times the product for less money, and better, more natural footage. And, we were paying our residents as opposed to an outside vendor, I have to believe that our retention factor increases too. But the most fascinating piece is this; we created four more Urbane Evangelists, who each brought several friends to the shoot. Those four residents and their friends are emailing their friends, with our marketing collateral, because they want to show off their apartment. What is the value of that my ROI tracking friends, it is priceless.

These stratigies will work for you too, try them and experiment!


December 25, 2008





Eric Brown has (30) years in the Multi-Family Apartment Business having built and developed over 17,000 apartment units, both market rate, luxury and tax credit apartments. Having started Urbane Apartments in 2003 after leaving a lengthy stint as a Senior Vice President at Village Green Companies, a national apartment developer, Eric decided he wanted to create wealth, and set out from Corporate America on his own and created Urbane Apartments in Royal Oak, MI.






Comments(52)

That is some really creative usage of Social Networking right there.

Eric also gives a couple great examples of usage in the real estate industry.
I just need to figure out how I can do something similar for my own niche ;)

Tobias, Thanks for stopping by
There are so very many wants to apply Social Media successfully, just get a little creative.

I am not sure that Social Media Marketing is the direction I would take. However, let me remind you that Social Media can and will get you indexed in the Search Engines quickly and can raise your positioning by hundreds, thousands, and yes even millions of places.

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Angela, Thanks for stopping by
In 2005 we dropped all traditional marketing efforts in exchange for an Urbane MySpace site, an Urbane Facebook site, an Urbane You Tube site and an Urbane flickr site. Urbane Apartments and Urbane employees twitter regularly.

To further integrate we started a Social Network site the Urbane Lobby where residents can meet and greet, trade pictures and videos and socialize on line. We manage and power a blog aimed at our residents the Urbane Blog, all designed around our target demographic local brand recognition

Nice post. I especially like your explanation of how "we're all just experimenting" when it comes to implementing social media tactics with our campaigns. It's such a growing medium that there's a lot to discover and consider when applying it your work.

The agency I intern for has a real estate developer as a client. I wonder if including social media efforts with future tactics can draw some of the young professionals they're targeting? Thanks for the advice.

Scott, Good Evening, Thanks for the comment. Socila Media is pretty new, and anyone who claims it is much more than an experiment likely has little experience.

I would encourage you to try out some of the various venues though, and I think there are many that lend themselves to real estate development. That is a big part of our business, so we have some first hand experience there!

Good Luck, and keep us posted of your progress as we all learn how to navigate the SM Waters!

Eh Scott,

I admire the creative approach but I am not sold that you are quantifying ROI as a true metric that i can present to a client. It's a valiant attempt but my VP of eMarketing would mock my attempt at pitching this as a strategy to a client without dollar to dollar return. But well done for us avid believers that Social has immeasurable indirect impacts.The problem is ROI needs provide a general idea of increased returns to be considered by most in Small to Medium Business, otherwise the budget is better advised to be spent on efforts which can be measured.

ER sorry not Scott I meant Eric :)

Gabe, Good Evening, Thank you for the comments, and I appreciate your insight, however I really disagree with your last sentence "ROI needs provide a general idea of increased returns to be considered by most in Small to Medium Business, otherwise the budget is better advised to be spent on efforts which can be measured." Your point may be accurate in that is how most executives think, particularly those not familiar with SM, but that doesn't make it right. I would challenge that most folks don't have a clue how their exiting marketing really works. I think people do what feels safe, yet everyone wants to toss around the ROI statement.

Executives keep doing what they have always done. The world is changing, and teh old ways are not effective anymore, some more than others, but it is a new day.

The old method of advertising is interactive marketing. The term is misleading. Most people think it means that there is some type of interaction on the part of the person advertised to, and there is. But, it is not conversational. Instead, the advertiser wants you to interact with their campaign in a specific set of steps. Following the call to action and visiting a website for instance. It's the push to make you do something. Live this image. Buy this now.

Social Media Marketing is just the opposite. It's the pull of the tribe. The tribe already has your trust so the actions they take are ones you align with. On a larger scale, it's the allure of belonging in the group as you take action together. "I am doing this so why don't you do it with me?" On an individual level, the attraction is to behave the same way to get the same results that benefits your fellow tribeswoman or tribesman. "She looks hot! I want to look hot too. I want to go to her hairstylist" and you do. Social Media Marketing uses the power of attraction.

While advertising tries to use the same tactic, with a billboard for instance, of a gorgeous woman telling you the benefits of the salon, it doesn't have the same impact because it's pushing you to go. It is not pulling you in as a trusted friend. Your friends have your best interests at heart and advertisers do not. Social Media Marketing is based on building trust and that foundation will make Social Media a dominant player in Marketing.

Leili, Hello, Thank you for such a well written comment.

If I could only add an additional piece to your last paragraph, that "trusted friends" doesn't even need to be someone you really "know" as long as the customer has given the vendor "permission" and or the "Customer" trusts the "tribe" as you have laid out, which is why "Rating Sites" are so very popular, and can be wonderful places to have a conversation with your customer, providing you are not afraid of what you may hear. It is clear that folks will place enough trust to purchase or decide not to purchase based on what others are saying, which all ties into why You must participate in the conversation.

Thanks again for stopping by, much appreciated

I applaud your creative approach to marketing. Trying new things is such a great way to discover what really works (and of course what doesn't).

Thank you for sharing your ideas with us.

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Arther, Thanks for stopping by, and the kind comments. We are trying all sorts of things in an effort to Break From Apartment Commodity. It has been an interesting trek here in MI

I am not sure that Social Media Marketing is the direction I would take. However, let me remind you that Social Media can and will get you indexed in the Search Engines quickly and can raise your positioning by hundreds, thousands, and yes even millions of places.

Thats a great one. Enjoyed reading it thanks

Thats a great one. Enjoyed reading it thanks

I applaud your creative approach to marketing. Trying new things is such a great way to discover what really works (and of course what doesn't).

Thank you for sharing your ideas with us.

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Really interesting article and well happy to have stumbled across your website today.

I applaud your creative approach to marketing. Trying new things is such a great way to discover what really works (and of course what doesn't).

Thank you for sharing your ideas with us.

Richie

Now that's truly thinking out of the box! It's great to see that not only was it successful but it will possibly inspire you to do more things like this. Kudos to you! I'm certainly inspired.

Amanda

All I know is that for me I have tried social media marketing and I don't see a big return on it. I have used several programs to assist me in this process as well and still no big return. The best results come from the content that I have written and my efforts to continuously optimize my site. I'd really love to figure out what I'm doing wrong as far as social media marketing is concerned.

I can honestly say Social media, i don't think has ever paid off for me, but I'm giving some thing called social traffic manifesto a go to see what it can do for me.. hoping it makes something good of my unlimited efforts.

Social media has not worked for me ever.

Great post. I really like your explanation on how you experimenting things when it comes to implementing social media tactics with our campaigns. It's such a growing medium that there's a lot to discover and consider when applying it your work.

This is some of the more in-depth case studies around. This sure needs a deeper look and people should give this subject more attention to effectively maximize the ROI.

agreed I am not sure that Social Media Marketing is the direction I would take. However, let me remind you that Social Media can and will get you indexed in the Search Engines quickly and can raise your positioning by hundreds, thousands, and yes even millions of places.

The trick here is not to solely rely on one type of marketing. DIVERSIFY is the key, invest your time and money into other types of marketing will deliver good results and better ranking.

I can honestly say Social media, i don't think has ever paid off for me, but I'm giving some thing called social traffic manifesto a go to see what it can do for me.. hoping it makes something good of my unlimited efforts.

I think beside search engine ranking which is the main reason i use web 2.0, you have really convinced me that web 2.0 can be a very effective marketing tool "if done well". Great post.

Personally I haven't jumped on the Social Media bandwagon and continue to focus on my traditional marketing techniques. But since they are such great marketing tools, it wouldn't heart to use them.

I don't know about others, but I am pretty confident that social media is here to stay. In fact I even believe that Web 2.0 would soon overtake the search engines as a more reliable source of information. While I have not done much marketing with Web 2.0 I have heard that stuff posted on social networking/social bookmarking sites gets indexed fast in Google!

Social media is so much more nowadays.

There will come a day where it's invisible to the consumers.

Like Angela said a while back- it's really about getting the word out and creating a web of people you trust and create value in return.

I agree, social media has a long way to go...

Social media may have it's flaws but does the flaws out weigh the quality? I personally don't think so..

Social Media such as Twitter is certainly a useful tool for selling.

It makes your online company more human and has led to increasing our sales.

I agree, social media is the future. The "real" media is so tainted by money and special interests that society will continue to rely on receiving media from their peers, aka social media.

Social media is here to stay, marketers need to learn how to embrace the medium.

The Fresh market that always be the fresh are SOcial networking sites..like facebook,Friendster,Twitter,etc

"Search Engines quickly and can raise your positioning by hundreds, thousands, and yes even millions of places"

Cannot speak about the numbers, but this much I can say that if your site is brand new and you are lazy, social bookmarking and social networking are perhaps the only 2 easy ways to get your site noticed quickly by the search engines! :)

Search engines are pretty much the god father of all of the internet. They hold the key to everything. I believe that in my experience RSS was the quickest way to get my sites listed. Usually in 3 hours.

I use social marketing to develope a number of my sites, can't recommend more !

Sometimes social media shouldn't be measured in pure ROI terms. There are quite a few ways to measure the benefits, such as reputation, brand authority, and domain expertise. All of these translate into a return over time.

Very hard to quantify the effects of social media. I believe social media is like any form of direct advertising or marketing in that it is more about the brand recognition and awareness. People in alot of cases when they see the brand will recognise that it has come from the internet and not specify the destination (ie social media)

Social media and bookmarking should be the media of getting known before the search engines come into play.

This is a great example of working smarter, not harder.

I think the one key thing that small business does not do is adequately access or analyse the trends in the market from a certain advertising or marketing campaign. the approach of adding in a ROI analytic or measure will ensure that dollars spent on a campaign are not wasted. Quantifying the leads that come through is key.

Social media... hmm, this is really a good issue to talk about. It's a good way to receive backlinks and bringing traffic to our website. But, not all social media is best fits for all offers. We should also learn their characteristics.

I've been extremely skeptical of Social Media.... mainly because of the way it's been "sold" as this magic bullet to reach 10,000,000 overnight. Social media is "social" for a reason - because you need to behave and use it right.

I liken it to being at a pub with a bunch of friends. Will you try and perform a hard-sell to them if you had the chance? Would you get any results from it? I don't think so!

You've got to play it right in Social Media, and to me - that's brand building 101.

Hi Eric,

My Social Media is way under-performing. However, it most likely user error than the media itself. Your article was helpful for me to get my juices flowing to see how I can make it work better in my business.

Thanks!

The part I've found tough about social media marketing is keeping up and not letting it become a time waster. Any tips?

I really appreciate you taking the time to share this topic with us. I think it is of great value and I will share it with my friends.
Rolando

What are easy ways to keep up with all the social media out there?

I found your information very useful. Thank you for your willingness to share it I have bookmarked your page for future reference.

Very hard to quantify the effects of social media. I believe social media is like any form of direct advertising or marketing in that it is more about the brand recognition and awareness. People in alot of cases when they see the brand will recognise that it has come from the internet and not specify the destination (ie social media)


Social media is heading more towards video media outlets such as Youtube and others. I can't wait to see what is coming around the corner in terms of social media 3.0

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